gardening with kids

Me, circa 1968.

I was a kid who gardened starting quite early. One of the first things I ever planted was corn. Yes corn. I was somewhere around the age of 3, we did it in school and yes I transplanted my corn plants into our walled garden in Philadelphia (lived in Society Hill until I was like 11).

Some of my earliest memories involved gardening with my father and his father, my Pop Pop. Pop Pop showed me how to plant tomatoes – Plum Tomatoes to be specific (he was Italian!) We also planted herbs. That first tomato plant yielded a tomato that looked like a little baseball mitt!

Gardening as a happy place started early for me. I also understood I had my plants I tended to, but left others alone. I learned early to stay away from the leaves of three (poison ivy, sumac,etc.)

The garden was not a place child-proofed other than a locked side gate in the garden wall that was locked to keep us in and strangers out – it was a walled garden with old brick walls almost 8 feet tall. I will admit I had a friend named Ali who was as agile as a cat who would climb her tall brick garden wall, walk over the edges of neighbors’ walls and climb down into my garden to hang out. It was quicker than walking around a long city block. I am happy to report she is alive and well and living in London with her husband and children.

I was told not to touch this subject with a 10 foot pole by a friend, but I feel I must. Yes I have certain plants that I do not plant because they are poisonous to domestic animals.

This topic comes up a great deal in my gardening group. And I do get frustrated sometimes by the questions. I understand that they are valid, but I grew up in a house that wasn’t childproofed to death, so did my stepson, and nieces and nephews. This also goes for a lot of my friends’ children.

Common sense dictates a lot of this. Watch young children carefully when playing outdoors. Keep indoor plants safely out of the reach of children. Teach kids from a young age to ask an adult before eating or drinking anything. Don’t eat wild plants in front of little kids who will mimic you.

You can have a garden and have small children. And the thing is, like teaching them to cook, or even just make cookies, they will probably have fun.

I have friends who often had a more grown up garden in the front yard, and out back where the kids played was more basic. That seemed to work.

You can give your kids their own “first garden” in a few pots, a low to the ground rectangular planter, or window boxes. Or you can give them their own section to tend in the garden beds you have already established. Start seeds early inside like sunflowers,zinnias , cosmos , vegetables or culinary herbs. Or buy starter plants somewhere.

Connecting with the earth and gardening is such a positive thing.  Many local arboretums even offer gardening – Tyler Arboretum, Jenkins Arboretum, Morris Arboretum, Mt. Cuba Center,Longwood Gardens, and more. Here is a whole link on Eventbrite (click on hyperlink) for all sorts of  gardening related events that are kid friendly.

There is this website called KidsGardening.org which has all sorts of information. They have an entire section on gardening basics. The have other sections on garden activities and even growing guidesThey are based in Burlington, Vermont and even have a spot on their website about designing school gardens. They are a non-profit. They have been around since 1982.  I think they are awesome.

We seem to partially live in a cotton batting world where kids are so scheduled and often overly protected.  Sometimes they just need to be kids.  I think gardening is one of those things that helps that along. Give them parameters like you do when teaching them other things. Most of all, remember, the garden doesn’t have to be perfect. It is a fun thing you can do together, learn together, and create memories with.

I still remember how fun it was when we planted my first tomato plant, and I learned how to tend my herb plants. As a child, I also loved learning how to make terrariums. In high school I was a Shipley Sprout and we even competed in the Philadelphia Flower Show!  I won a couple of ribbons too for forcing bulbs! (Not first place, but it was still awesome!)

On the U.K.’s Telegraph website there is this article:

Churchill family gardening
Seeds of success: gardening with kids cultivates life skills  

5 SEPTEMBER 2016 • 10:45AM By Victoria Lambert

Anyone who has gardened with children will know what a pleasure it is to pass on skills and see the next generation developing a passion for planting.

There may be the odd moment where “weeding” decimates your new bedding plants or a snail collection is released en masse into the veg patch, but research shows we should stick with it as experts increasingly point to the value children get from gardening and being outside.

These benefits range from the chance to be active and get away from the omnipresent screens, to real mental health gains.

Back in 2000, a Texas A&M University survey of children under 12 actively involved in gardening projects in school, community or home settings, found benefits to children’s self-esteem and reduction in stress levels.

Closer to home, Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) research continues to back this up. It suggests children perform better at school if they’re involved with gardening, and many will develop a greater interest in healthy eating if they get to grow their own veg.

Caroline Levitt, who founded the Diggers Forest School and Nursery near Midhurst, West Sussex, believes the benefits of outdoor work even for the smallest children are huge. She says: “Children can learn so much and have fun, too.

“Gardening involves lots of different activities, such as design of the garden and choice of what to plant, and it can be a good team or friendship building exercise, as they take turns to water plants and share the weeding. This is also a good way to learn responsibility.

“Gardening can also be a fantastic sensory experiment, handling dry earth or gloopy mud and even worms! It is a great way for children to naturally learn patience while they watch their produce grow.”

Ms Levitt adds that gardening is useful for stimulating creativity. “We get them thinking about the design of the layout and in terms of how seeds are planted  – for example, neatly in rows or thrown into a pot…”

….Gardening for children is also closely linked to feelings of well-being. 

 

Rodale’s Organic Life also has an article on this:

The Importance Of Getting Kids Into The Garden

Turn digging in the dirt with your children into a lifetime of love and respect for nature. by Marti Ross Bjornson November 24, 2015

Gardens are magical, fun, and always full of surprises. Watch a child pull a carrot from the earth, brush off the soil, and take a bite, or see the anticipation in the eyes of a youngster creating a bouquet of flowers she grew. There is a natural magnetic attraction between children and the earth, whether it’s making mud or discovering a germinating seed emerge from the earth. Gardening with children, from toddlers to adolescents, opens new windows in a world dominated by technology.

Whether you are an accomplished gardener or a novice, gardening with children is your chance to partner with Mother Nature to make magic. Don’t worry about achieving horticultural perfection. Just dig in and grow something beautiful or good to eat. Your garden is your treasure chest; you and your young gardener—exploring together—can discover its priceless bounty for an afternoon’s delight or for a lifetime.

Memories last longer than one season.

 

Anyway, just wanted to point out teaching kids to garden is a good thing.

Now, to be safe click below for lists of poisonous and non-poisonous plants:

PoisonControl.org: Poisonous and Non-poisonous Plants An Illustrated List

California Poison Control System: Poisonous and Non-Poisonous Plants

save the date for a delightful day in kennett square

On a snowy afternoon this is an awesome thing to receive in the mail! Save the date for the 2018 Bayard Taylor Home and Garden Tour!

Saturday, June 2, 2018 won’t come soon enough!

This is probably the best home and garden tour I’ve ever taken. Different kinds of homes and gardens, all interesting. If you’re looking for inspiration in your own home garden this is the perfect opportunity to find inspiration. And I will note that a lot of these gardeners tend to their gardens themselves.

In the fall I love Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s Historic House Tour, and Chester County Hospital’s Chester County Day, but once spring is here? This is one of the things I can’t wait for!

This event raises money to fund the children’s programs and adult literacy programs as well.

Planning for this event starts in early fall when the committee selects a variety of homes and gardens in a particular area of southern Chester County.

The self- guided tour showcases unique homes representing a mix of styles from historic homes and estates to charming cottages to sleek modern residences. Gardens range from large, lush professionally maintained to pocket sized patches of brilliant flowers some with sculptural accents, from the simple, but endearing, to the elaborate and extravagant.

Every detail is attended to, leading to a beautiful, carefree day of explorations into homes and neighborhoods seldom seen by the public. Thanks to the generosity of homeowners, local merchants and artists and especially the visitors, over $600,000 has been raised since the tour’s inception. These funds have greatly enhanced and enriched the experiences and lives of Kennett Square area children.

If you have never made time for this tour, make 2018 your year to attend this event!

I will note for the record I purchase tickets for this event like any other attendee. I am not compensated in any way, shape, or form by the home and garden tour committee for suggesting this event to the general public. I suggest this event because it’s marvelous.

The photos I have posted are mine from one of their garden tours, and I asked permission before taking photos outside only.

Stay safe in the winter weather this evening and dream of spring! 😊

taming the interior jungle

Winter means I only have the inside a/k/a house plants to tend to. It won’t be spring soon enough, but for now it’s all about taming the interior jungle.

Fridays is plant tending day. I start with the big Boston Ferns. They love the dappled shade on the edge of the woods on hooks in the summer, but in the winter they hang from the family room ceiling on hooks the prior homeowner (who was a wonderful gardener in her day, I am told) put up.

The ferns go to the sink where they get watered and misted. I leave them to drain a couple of hours while I tend to the rest of the jungle.

I start with the orchids and small Clivia (offspring from the big Clivia pots.) They are on moisture trays which I periodically add hot tap water to. The orchids each get a couple of ice cubes and today they will get sprayed with foliar feed.

The Clivia along with their mother ship relatives which are in large pots on the floor just get some water. Occasionally I water everything with Irish Organic Fertilizer (you can buy it on Amazon and I use it in my garden and on my house plants and orchids.)

I have two ivy topiaries which I actually made, and they also get watered and misted in the kitchen sink once a week and left to drain before returning to their plant saucers and plant stands. (I have a few vintage plant stands from the Smithfield Barn that I use for indoor plants to save the furniture surfaces.)

I have two citrus trees. One is a grapefruit tree I grew from seed. It has never bloomed or grown fruit but as it has matured it has grown thorns. My other citrus is a small Meyer Lemon. That has born full-sized fruit once and then almost died. It’s now thriving in a new pot and I hope for blossoms soon. The citrus trees are planted with soil specifically for citrus trees and it drains well. I tend to let them dry out before watering again. It’s a balance, but when I overwater they drop leaves.

I did buy a moisture meter which does help keep my plants watered properly. But some plants just defy all logic. Like our giant Mandevilla. We inherited it from the prior homeowner so it is well established and now in a rather large pot. It has a trellis in the pot for the vines but the pot is so heavy it is on a saucer on wheels. At this point every winter it sheds leaves. Constantly. It makes a real mess. Then it looks like it is half dead, but then spring rolls around and new leave start to sprout. But right now it is in the middle of its ugly season where I look at it and swear I won’t go through this again….until summer when the marvelous hot pink flowers appear.

I also have Christmas Cactus. It thrives on benign neglect. It also prefers a more sandy kind of soil. I toss a handful of ice cubes in the pot on the soil once a week and that’s all. I learned from a co-worker years ago that they literally thrive on being ignored.

My addition to the interior jungle this year other than a rosemary plant I am overwintering is the pretty Amaryllis I received as a gift a while back. It bloomed for Christmas, and I thought it was finished blooming and was starting to grow leaves and much to my delight another flower bud is pushing from the base! So right now I am letting the stem die from the first flower and keeping the soil moist so the next flower can grow.

Like my regular outside garden I have learned through trial and error over the years that the best thing I can do for my houseplants is also keep them on a schedule. As long as I stick to a schedule as far as watering and feeding and general tending they seem to do OK.

As for what else a gardener does in winter, well that’s easy. I go through plant catalogs and gardening magazines as I wait for spring!

Thanks for stopping by.

christmas bluebirds

I love my own personal Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom that lives in our woods and in the gardens.  This year I have some new winter residents, Eastern Bluebirds.  I first saw them a month ago, and then I saw them again just now. It’s official, I’m in love.

These are the things that make living here in Chester County, PA so darn special. These are the things we need to conserve and preserve.  These are the things that all the wanton development spoils.  Tyvec wrapped stick frame construction with nary a tree to be seen can never, ever replace the simple joy of seeing bluebirds in your garden.

Anyway, if you enjoy the birds one of the things you can do is participate in Cornell’s Feeder Watch.  It’s fun! (My husband doesn’t know it yet, but I signed us back up!)

the thanksgiving gift

These past few years my blog has been my journey through my now not so new home county, Chester County, Pennsylvania . It’s also been whatever I feel like writing about at the time – what moves me, inspires me, what I want to share.

I have been a blogger for years, but out here I don’t think there are many people like myself who blog just because they want to write. So I am an acquired taste to many. I am also not a monetized blog, which is a rare species sometimes these days. With the blogging sometimes over the past few years I have had some incredibly negative experiences even with all the amazing and heartwarming and positive experiences of writing. As a result it may take me a few days when someone writes to my blog and is truly complementary.

So what I’m about to tell you is basically my O. Henry story for Thanksgiving 2017. (And as a related aside, if you have never read O.Henry you should. His stories are timeless and endure through the ages.)

Recently, someone wrote to me via my blog to tell me how much he enjoyed what I wrote about. And this gentleman, Chris, has really read what I’ve written. It always leaves me slightly in awe when I realize this because I write for myself. I enjoy the act of writing and expressing myself, it’s my art so to speak. And sometimes (sadly) along with the pleasant commentary , I get really ugly comments about my blog; it’s not always happy thoughts. That is the sad reality of the world we live in.

And this nice man also offered me an amaryllis bulb. And for a gardener like myself, there’s nothing better this time of year than paper whites and Amaryllis. I happen to love Amaryllis and the weird spring and fall made mincemeat out of my remaining Amaryllis bulbs and I actually didn’t have one started for Christmas. Someone from DutchGrown, a bulb grower and supplier out of West Chester had given him a couple of bulbs, and he thought enough of me a total stranger and fellow gardener, to offer me one. (And now I know about another bulb grower which is Chester County local too!)

2017 has been a crazy year for me being a blogger, so I showed the note to my husband, and he said that there is enough good on this earth that we can still take people at their word, even strangers. So today I sent a note back and said I would love to have an Amaryllis bulb and say hello.

I have to tell you I really didn’t expect him to come by today because it is Thanksgiving and he has a family, but he did. Sadly, I had hopped into the shower to get ready for family coming here for Thanksgiving. So he and my husband met instead. And now we have a new friend, well met.

There is that phrase about the kindness of strangers, and it definitely proves itself true here in this situation. And once again my travels through Chester county and my blog have introduced us to get another person we normally would not have met.

Chris, Happy Thanksgiving. This post is for you. Thank you for the beautiful bulb and reminding us what is important in this life. It is a true O.Henry moment.

Happy Thanksgiving dear readers and pay it forward this holiday season. Believe.

the fall into winter garden

I start this morning with a picture of one of my November roses. I have a handful of rose bushes still blooming, and yesterday I was able to cut a small bouquet.

Another oddity given the weather, is this morning I picked fresh raspberries from my raspberry bush. Yes, really!

I have not only planted a “layered” garden, I have done my best to make this garden four seasons. The beauty is different in the fall and in the dead of winter, but if you open your eyes and look around you see it.

I planted a lot of the red twig dogwood shrubs throughout my garden. Some have a variegated leaf some a solid green leaf. Once they start to shed their leaves, the other part of their attractiveness shines through. These shrubs get brilliant red stems that give you the most glorious color from late fall through the winter. There are few things as pretty as seeing a red twig dogwood against freshly fallen snow!

And my hydrangeas – they also provide their own four season attraction. The hydrangeas keep their flowers through most of the winter until winds and what not start to knock them off. (I finish dead heading them in the spring which is NOT the same as pruning. ) It becomes more like a dried flower still life versus the crazy vibrant colors of the growing season.

A lot of my herbs overwinter nicely in this garden as they have enough protection in the beds. I will never get things like basil to overwinter outside, but I have even had tarragon over winter here, which I hadn’t had before. My two big pots on the front walk are filled with lavender and thyme. I will not cut them back I will leave those herbs exactly as is. I finally figured out the trick to lavender was NOT cutting it back if you found a spot where it can overwinter.

I have a much more laissez faire attitude to my garden in the fall then a lot of people. First of all I have a lot of garden and I have to accept that I can’t do everything. So much to the surprise of many, I kind of let my fall garden do what it wants to do. I do not dead head everything. Among other things if you leave the seedpods and whatnot on your shrubs and perennials, it’s food for birds.

But I have discovered if I let my fall garden do what it wants I have this whole other display. It’s almost like looking at a whole other garden. Instead of nothing, I have interest.

We do rake and blow the leaves, and our forest and woods are mostly oak trees, so we put the leaves on the flower beds.

A garden in fall and winter doesn’t have the lush beauty of spring and summer and the riot of color. It’s more subdued and it’s also more structural. You are, after all, looking at the plants without their spring and summer finery.

I do spray everything for deer around now, and I will have to do so again even in the dead of winter. That is the trade-off for having a garden in deer country.

I planted the last of my fall perennials that I picked up on sale and one more shrub. After this weekend I just have some bulbs to plant. But I hadn’t felt like planting them because honestly it was too warm.

I plant mostly daffodils and Narcissus. I gave up on tulips years ago as they are just squirrel food. I like Brent and Becky’s Bulbs for mail order bulbs. Most local nurseries do not get the variety I like, and they are simply more expensive. I have also used a company out of Connecticut called Color Blends.

Today I bought the ceramic vintages birdbaths in and put them in their winter homes in the basement. I bought in one concrete birdbath top, leaving the largest one for my sweet man to flip over and cover for me. It’s just too heavy for me to move.

The kitchen herbs that I have in pots that I do not overwinter inside I will take out of the ceramic and clay pots and put into the flowerbeds. As a result I have a healthy bed of thyme (makes an awesome ground cover), and returning sage and other things like oregano and even some rosemary. I just dig them in and they get covered with leaves and what survives is meant to be and that’s the way it is.

My house looks sort of like a jungle because the Boston ferns have come in from their hooks in the backyard and once a week they get a good water and misting every other day.

During the winter months I will keep myself busy with my ivy topiaries, clivia, and my ferns. I used to do a lot of amaryllis bulbs but I really don’t have the room anymore and the last few years of bulbs I have purchased I have been disappointed in.

Anyway, the time has come for the gardens to sleep. We will be getting a hard freeze over the next couple of days. I will get in the balance of my bulbs, and look to my gardening magazines and catalogs for inspiration for next year. But I will also enjoy my garden in fall and winter. I hope you will too.

Thanks for stopping by.